Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Jerry Jennings, MASA
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Teaching While Connected: My Google Glass Experiment

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Oct 30, 2014

“Our students will be earning a living as adults in a world that MOVES”…

Julie Alspach: Last year about this time, I attended the MiGoogle conference and listened to Andrew Vander Heuvel talk about his experience with Google Glass. The innovation of Google Glass inspired me to apply to be a Google Glass Explorer. At that point the program was a closed beta. That means you needed to apply and be accepted in order to be allowed to buy and test glass. (Currently it is an open beta, meaning anyone can buy Google Glass).

Instead of putting my first name on the application, I demonstrated a little tech savvy by using my twitter handle, @JulieAllThat. Within a week, I had an invitation to buy Google Glass. The cost was significant. But the experience of being a Google Glass Explorer has opened doors for me…

What I do with Google Glass

Glass has been great for first person point-of-view videos. I can video tape my daughter’s whole band performance without the picture dropping down because my hand is sagging. (The first person point-of-view is demonstrated on this multi-sample video on my YouTube Channel.)  While recording my daughter’s band concert, I was invited to present at Chrysler to their team that works on vehicle connection software. I did present there, and had great conversations about ‘technology added-value vs. distraction’ with the engineers.

Glass is also great for ‘being there’. I never have to dig for my phone. Email, tweets, texts, and phone calls are right in front of me when I am wearing glass. It’s called heads up display.

One of the best things I do with Google Glass is SHARE it. Yes, I present at corporations, conferences, and edcamps, but I also pass it around. There’s nothing more powerful than the expression on students faces when they start engaging in the technology. When our students engage, we open the innovative thinking to create the next generation of problem-solvers.

What can Google Glass do in the classroom?

  • Star Chart gives student a heads up map of the night time sky.
  • Evernote can record a teacher’s lecture for student who need notes.
  • Students can record presentations and labs.
  • Google Glass can translate text from one language to another.
  • Google Glass can read QR codes. A student can look at a QR code to bring up more information.
  • Virtual Field Trips can be created from a first person point-of-view to enhance student engagement.

CLICK on IMAGE below to view virtual field trip with Google Glass!


For me it’s not about the device. Google Glass is just a conversation starter for creative problem solving; for moving our thinking into the next step. Wearable technology is a growing field, including Fitbits, smart clothing and smart watches. Our students will be earning a living as adults in a world that moves. They will need to adapt and change with that world. I came across a post on @teachthought called 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. These are MORE than just habits, they are fundamental job skills for our students.

Learn More:

Andrew’s story about Google Glass with Andrew Vander Heuvel

STEMBites – Andrew Vander Heuvel

Teacher’s Guide to Google Glass – Edudemic

30 Ways Google Glass Can Innovate the Classroom – Mashable

My Wearable Technology Presentation – Julie Alspach

 Julie Alspach is Lead Instructor for Oakland Schools’ Virtual Learning Academy Consortium (VLAC). She is also a robotics team coach and EdCamp organizer and can be seen on campus and at events wearing the amazing Google Glass!


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

Is it Time for Lame Duck Sessions to Be a Thing of the Past?

Written by David Britton on Oct 30, 2014
Hang on to your hats...and most anything else in life you cherish as the Michigan legislature once again holds another big lame-duck-session party following the election on November 4. For those unenlightened citizens out there, a lame-duck session is when legislators thrown out of office by either term limits or voters wreak as much havoc as possible on us regular citizens by passing "big government" bills that tend to take more control of our lives. And the irony is that this will be done for the second session in a row by a Republican-led gang who ran on a smaller government, less regulation, lower taxes platform in 2010 with a little “jobsjobsjobs” thrown in for good measure.  Lame duck makes them look just the opposite.

It matters not who we elect on Tuesday to the House, Senate or Governor's chair since the lame-duck festivities will occur during the dead space period before the new folks we vote in take office after January 1. In 2012, in a very short period of time, the legislature passed 282 bills mostly without committee hearings, public input and proper vetting to analyze unintended consequences and problems down the road. They also did it without regards to the needs and desires of the Michigan people who elected them. Then, likes rats from a sinking ship, they scampered out of town leaving a pile of paper for the Governor to review and sign (or veto as in the case of a small handful of bills).

Using lame duck to push through pet projects or policies is no way to bring Michigan back from the abyss of the Great Recession and post-industrial era. We need thoughtful statesmanship, not one-upmanship from elected officials succumbing to pressure from in-state groups such as the Mackinac Center and out-of-state groups like ALEC and billionaire pseudo-reformers. Bills pushed through, supported and passed by a substantial number of outgoing legislators who no longer are accountable to Michigan's citizens is just plain wrong.

We'll be watching this coming lame duck session closely and if it's anything like the debacle of 2012, it may just be time for a voter initiative to outlaw lame duck legislative sessions for anything but a declared state of emergency between the election and January 1 start of the new session.

Additional reading:

Highlight of bills passed by Michigan's lame duck legislature

Michigan Lawmakers Are Trying To Sneak Through Extreme Abortion Restrictions In Lame Duck Session

It’s a Mad, Mad Michigan

Frankenstein’s Magic Formula: Modern Mechatronics!

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Oct 27, 2014

WHAT HAPPENS when you combine electronic and mechanical systems with information technology, teachers with engineering experience and a roomful of curious high school students?

What happens is a magic Frankenstein-ian formula for success called MECHATRONICS!

Mechatronics is an integrated engineering practice responsible for ‘smart’ machinery (think robotics, sensors, new homes, surgical tools and toys). In Michigan, where cars get ‘smarter’ every year, automotive engineering has assimilated mechatronics into many of its primary design and production processes. Dr. Frankenstein built an old-school monster that moved; Mechatronics builds new wave, intelligent machines that protect, heal and entertain.


At Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (OSTC), the Engineering/Emerging Technologies (EET) cluster introduces junior and senior high school students to Mechatronics in order to prepare them to be strong, entry-level candidates for elite, post-secondary training programs, paid apprenticeships, engineering degrees and industry careers.

OSTC instructors Chuck Beyer, a former Chrysler engineer with a teaching certificate, and Demetrius Wilson, who has an electrical systems background, talked about OSTC’s EET/Mechatronics program and the head start it gives to Oakland County students who graduate from the cluster…

Mr. Wilson at OSTC Northeast

“We’re doing some new things at OSTC. Students are using SOLIDWORKS™ software, which gives them the ability to do not just Computer-Aided Design (CAD), but Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). You can teach kids to design blocks or parts with CAD, but you can’t test it – you don’t know if that part will fail. That’s where the CAE piece comes in…

OSTC student using CAE

Students need to be able to go from the virtual world, to hardware, then back to the computer. This process mirrors industry, and it demands that hands-on learning is taught in tandem with academics.

A student can open an engineering book and see lots of confusing things; the key, the trick, is to teach a student to figure out which pieces of the chaos are important.

We work with high-level pieces from the manufacturing world, and teach material that students typically don’t get until their first or second year of Engineering School. We take students through the entire Product Concept > Design > Production > Final Product sequence.

OSTC is able to do this because:

  1. We have the equipment
  2. We have dedicated blocks of time with our students
  3. We have instructor skill-sets that are unique and specialized
  4. We take a project-based approach: we teach kids through hands-on projects and applications FIRST, then we go back and help them fill in the physics formula blanks
  5. We make the learning RELEVANT!

In the old days of vocational education we had a couple of stand-alone programs, like Drafting or Welding. We’ve increased both the depth and breadth of our programs by incorporating Electronic Systems, Mechanical Systems and Computers under ‘Mechatronics’. Students within OSTC’s nine program clusters also collaborate with each other – a transportation student might need an automotive clamp designed, for example.

Our EET cluster students can design, produce and TEST the part to meet the need for the Transportation cluster. Our students are highly successful; they have been very well prepared for opportunities in Mechatronics and Engineering”.

An Opportunity: MAT²®

Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²®) is an innovative, industry-driven program based on the German model of apprenticeship, and high school seniors must apply for admission. It is a competitive selection process since MAT²® offers lifetime benefits:

“Students will receive a salary throughout the program; have all tuition fees paid for by their employer and end up with an advanced associate degree. On top of that, there is a full-time technician job waiting for all successful MAT²® graduates.” - MAT²® website

Currently, MAT²® participants may choose to concentrate in the field as a Mechatronics Technician, IT Technician, or in Technical Product Design. MAT²® Early Bird deadline is December 15, 2014, and more application details are available HERE. A FREE parent information session is scheduled for October 30, 7:00-8:00 PM at Oakland Schools (for address and RSVP info, see downloadable flyer).

As Mr. Beyer and Mr. Wilson mentioned, OSTC students are well-prepped for college/career – and for the entire MAT²® application process. In addition to Mechatronics skills, students receive support in soft skills (interviews, resumes, portfolios, practice presentations), which helps them present themselves as well-rounded, successful future employees to companies looking for permanent technical talent.

OSTC EET/Mechatronics students

As for that Frankenstein-ian formula for success? If he were here today, Dr. Frankenstein would surely have a career in Mechatronics, and he would most definitely coach a winning Robotics team…


Oakland Schools Technical Campuses

Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²®)


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

The Focus of Strategic Planning

Written by Scot Graden on Oct 23, 2014

At this time of the year, I typically review the District Strategic Plan – or the Strategic Framework – to assess progress on each of the identified action steps and goals. An article from the Harvard Business Review came to mind as I reflected on this process. The article, The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, notes inherent flaws along the path toward expected outcomes. One identified flaw is that organizations do not clearly define what they do and why. The idea is to limit risks while maximizing the odds of success.

Of particular interest in the Harvard Business Review article the guidance to avoid traps typically associated with strategic planning. Keeping the focus on the customer (the student) is critical when identifying intended outcomes. Over the next few months, a student profile will be developed. Essentially, what knowledge, skills and capabilities should a Saline Area Schools graduate possess when they exit the school system? Is the mission statement for the District the roadmap for this work?

“We, the Saline Area Schools, will equip all students with the knowledge, technological proficiency, and personal skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex society.  We expect that our students, staff, and the Saline community  will share in these responsibilities.
Our ultimate goal is to instill in our students a desire for lifelong learning.”

Beginning with that end in mind will guide the work of the District in the months to come.

Are "educational reformers" legitimate?

Written by Steve Matthews on Oct 21, 2014
Think back to the best teacher that you ever had.

How many teachers did you think of? I immediately remembered six.

Miss Harriger - 2nd grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Miss Hixenbaugh - 4th grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mrs. Chapman - 5th grade Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico

(Evidently I had a really good experience at Inez Elementary School!)

Miss Getz - 9th grade Language Arts Monroe Junior High - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Miss Ely - 10th grade English Sandia High School Albuquerque, New Mexico
Coach Braig - Latin I and II Sandia High School Albuquerque, New Mexico

Great teachers - everyone of them.

Why did I believe that they were so good?

They respected me. I had a voice. The valued my opinions and ideas. They gave me freedom. I knew what to expect day to day. They treated everyone in the class fairly. They made me work hard. They challenged me to become better.

I thought of those teachers as I read Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. In his chapter on the limits of power Gladwell talks about the principle of legitimacy.

It turns out, according to Gladwell, that leading and moving and motivating and encouraging and managing people turns on this principle of legitimacy.

Students view good teachers as legitimate. Students respect the teachers because we believe in them. As a result, we follow those teachers. We follow them to places that we never thought we could go. We become better than who we thought we were.

Students also are very sensitive to teachers who are not legitimate. These are the teachers who cannot relate to students, do not believe in students, have poor classroom management skills, do not challenge students, and who do not move students forward.

I can think of some of those teachers as well.

As I read Gladwell's chapter I also thought about the educational reform battles we are waging. Why are the battles so fierce?

It is possible that the battles are so fierce because those of us in education do not view the "reformers" as legitimate.

The "reformers" don't give educators a voice.

The "reformers" keep changing the rules.

The "reformers" treat groups differently.

The "reformers" are not actually in schools working with students every day.

The "reformers" talk about the changes that need to take place but they have never actually demonstrated that they have the ability to make these changes.

As a result, those of us in education don't believe the reformers.

Do schools need to improve? Absolutely.

But does that mean teachers are terrible, administrators are incompetent, and public schools are a failure? Of course not.

But the rhetoric of the "reformers" castigates educators. Instead of trying to listen to our voice or inviting us to participate in the dialogue, the reformers push us away.

They know best - that is the message they send.

As a result, those of us who work with students and parents every day, those of us who understand the variety of needs within the students who come to our schools every day, those of us who have committed our lives to being with and beside students, don't believe the reformers.

I am not suggesting that the reformers do not value students and that they do not genuinely want schools to improve.

But the reformers by pointing fingers and claiming to have the answers undermine their legitimacy and go against Gladwell's points on the limits of power.

As Gladwell states, "when people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters - first and foremost - how they behave."